The Reunion

Last week we left Gwawl trapped in a bag…

The assembled guests jumped to their feet in outrage and dismay, apart from Rhiannon, who looked into the eyes of her hero, who was, after all, like every other human, not perfect.

It only lasted a moment. Pwyll blew the hunting horn around his neck, and his men came pouring in from every door. Man to man, they took Gwawl’s men prisoner.

Pwyll threw off his rags, and, when the shouting had stopped, called, “Lord Gwawl, do you hear me?”

There was no answer, so Pwyll continued, “I am Pwyll. As you outwitted me, so I have outwitted you. You will stay in that bag until you agree to give up Rhiannon.”

“Lord,” said Gwawl finally, “it does not become a nobleman like me to be shut up in a bag.”

“He speaks the truth, lord.” Hefeydd, Rhiannon’s father, chimed in.

“Well,” said Pwyll, looking at Rhiannon, “I will do what you suggest.”

Rhiannon rose and came to stand beside Pwyll, “Well, Gwawl, do you give me up?”

No answer.

Rhiannon raised her voice, “Do you give me up?!”

A muttered “Yes,” came from the bag.

“And swear you will not take revenge for what has been done to you.”

“I swear it,” Gwawl said through gritted teeth.

“Then I accept that,” said Pwyll.

He undid the sack and Gwawl, looking furious, was helped out of the bag by two of Pwyll’s men. But he managed to restrain his tongue.

“Lord,” he said, “I would ask your permission to retire.”   And with that he gathered together what remained of his dignity and departed, stringy bits of meat hanging from his hair.

When he had gone, Pwyll turned to the lady beside him, who was trying to maintain a dignified pose, but she couldn’t help beaming at him. They hugged joyously.

“Set the hall in order,” Hefeydd commanded from the high table. “Bring in more food!”

“Are you going to send me home again?” Pwyll whispered to Rhiannon.

“No,” she smiled, “We shouldn’t wait any longer, and besides, who knows what Gwawl could plan in a year.”

They sat down at the table, with a bridegroom swap yet again. Pwyll and Rhiannon talked as before, looking deeper and deeper into each other’s faces. No more separations, no more plots and doubts. They would be together now forever.

The Wedding Feast – Again

Last week we left Pwyll in despair, as he was tricked into giving up Rhiannon.

Another year passed, and it was a time of grieving, then bitter self-reflection on Pwyll’s part. He had been stupid. He had lost Rhiannon through his own thoughtlessness and naivety, because he sought to do the proper thing. There was no sight or sound of Rhiannon in Dyfed that year, and it was an exceptionally harsh winter.

But when the spring came, so did fresh hope, and it was a considerably older Pwyll who stood again on Gorsedd Arberth, at midsummer, with his nobles. As before, the birds appeared and led them to the Otherworld. This time, Pwyll was in disguise as a poor wandering peasant, but in his hand he carried the mysterious bag.

When they arrived at the house of Rhiannon, there were no loving arms to welcome him. Following her previous instructions, Pwyll’s men hid themselves in the orchard by the gate. Pwyll went up to the door alone, and gained admittance by wanting a favour from the lord.

Into the bright light he went. Gwawl sat in the high seat, with Rhiannon next to him, chatting and laughing. Pwyll died a little inside but went on bravely. He bent his knee humbly and greeted Gwawl in a rough countryman’s voice.

“May heaven make you prosperous,” Gwawl greeted him back.

At Gwawl’s words Pwyll rose. Keeping his face away from Rhiannon, he said, “May heaven reward you, I have an request.”

“Your request is welcome, and if your request is just, it shall be given to you.”

Gwawl was no fool then, Pwyll thought bitterly. He continued with the game.

“It is a just request, lord. I only ask because I am needy, and all I want is this small bag filled with meat.”

“That is within reason,” Gwawl nodded approvingly, “You shall have it gladly. Bring him food!”

So food was brought, and the bag started to be filled. Pwyll watched closely. If it worked right…yes, it did!  More and more meat was brought, but the bag grew no fuller.

Puzzled murmurings grew round the hall. Finally Gwawl broke in, “Friend, will the bag ever be full?”

Pwyll pretended a laugh, “No, it will not, unless,” he swept his gaze along the line of nobles, finally glaring at Gwawl, “a true nobleman, one with lands and territory, will put his feet into the bag, tread down the food, and declare, ‘Enough is enough!’”

The assembled company roared with laughter. Pwyll did not let his gaze waver from Gwawl, until it had hit home to him that when Pwyll had made the challenge, “a true nobleman,” Pwyll had meant Gwawl himself. If Gwawl refused to do this, he declared to all present that he was not a true nobleman.

Gwawl was not laughing, and Pwyll saw that he had understood correctly. Gwawl wavered on the edge of his seat.

Rhiannon spoke, for the first time, “O hero, rise up quickly!”

That did it. Gwawl jumped up, “I will!” He jumped the table and into the bag. Pwyll quickly pulled the bag up over his head and tied the end closed. The bag was still for one moment, then with an almighty roar of rage it began to squirm like an eel.

The Request

Last week we left Pwyll stunned as a complete stranger came to the wedding feast and demanded the bride for himself…

Pwyll sat frozen. All the company hardly dared to breath. Except for one young lady, who sneezed.

The everyday noise brought Pwyll to his senses, and he hung over the table as nausea swept down upon him. He had lost Rhiannon.

“Be silent as long as you like,” snapped a cold voice in his ear. “Never has a man made worse use of his wits than you have just done.”

Pwyll hardly dared look her in the eye. “I didn’t know who he was.”

“This is the man my father wanted to give me to. He is Gwawl, the son of Clud, a wealthy and powerful man. Since you have given your word, you must give me to him, to prevent dishonour to yourself.”

“I can’t do that. Never!” Pwyll protested. But what Rhiannon said was the truth. He would make an enemy of this man if he did not keep to his word.

“Give me to him,” Rhiannon insisted in a whisper, “and I will make sure he won’t have me.”

“How?” Pwyll asked, still in his melting-pot of shame.

“Before you go I will give you a little bag…” And she hastily whispered her plan in his ear.

Meanwhile, Gwawl was striding up and down the hall, getting many looks of admiration from the young ladies, “Lord,” he barked, coming to an abrupt stop in front of the high table, “It is high time I received an answer to my request.”

Pwyll gathered together what shreds of dignity were left to him, “You shall have as much of your request as I can give you.”

Rhiannon rose, and bestowed a dazzling smile on Gwawl, a smile that was like a dagger to Pwyll’s heart, even though he knew it was only for show. “Friend, I cannot give this feast to you, for I have already given it to the men of Dyfed. But, in a year’s time, I shall prepare a feast for you, my friend, and I will be your bride.”

The feast was over. Gwawl departed, a satisfied smile on his face, having got what he came for. Then Rhiannon silently pressed the bag into Pwyll’s hand, and summoned her birds. With a mute gesture, she indicated that Pwyll should follow them, and the men of Dyfed left the palace and stepped into the night.

The Wedding Feast

Last week we left Pwyll bravely stepping into the Otherworld for the second time.  Unlike him, we failed to find an entrance to the Otherworld, so this story is illustrated by general photos of Wales.

The birds led them to a palace as the sun began to set. And there, by the door, was a white figure waiting for them. The birds swooped away to alight on her head and shoulders as she ran forward into the welcoming light that streamed from the entrance.

“Rhiannon!” Pwyll gave a glad cry.

She ran into his arms, smiling thankfully, “I sent my birds to meet you, lord, but I still wasn’t completely sure if you would come.”

“I would come to you anywhere, Rhiannon,” Pwyll comforted her, “But tell me – the birds are yours?”

She smirked at him, “Yes, lord.”

“But then – what are you, Rhiannon?!!!”

She laughed at his shock, “A person, like yourself. I may have a slightly longer lifespan and a few powers, but that’s because I’m a faery. We cannot help how much or how little the people of your world respect us. Anyway, come inside and meet my father.”

The couple joined hands and stepped inside. It was much like any other feasting hall. Except in the high seat sat a man who looked older than time. His white beard flowed down his chest and his eyes watched Pwyll coming towards him. Pwyll bowed at the foot of the throne.

“So you are the man my daughter has chosen,” Hefeydd said, in a neutral voice, “Well, it is right that the bridegroom should have the chief seat.”

He got up and offered his chair to Pwyll, bowing stiffly. Pwyll bowed low back and took it. Rhiannon took the chair on his right and the feasting began.

During the meal Pwyll could hardly drag his attention away from Rhiannon long enough to concentrate on the official toasts. But all the rest of the time they talked and talked, making up for the year they had spent apart.

Finally the official business was over and the tables were cleared. Everyone’s wine cups were filled to the brim and the formal atmosphere relaxed.

Just as Pwyll knew he could talk to Rhiannon uninterrupted, there was a disturbance at the door. As he was the ruler of the feast, Pwyll dragged his eyes away from the vision at his side, “Now what,” he wailed to no-one in particular.

By the door stood a youth, tall and with auburn hair. He came up to the table and bent his knee respectfully, but not for long, as the gold band round his neck and his proud carriage proclaimed him a nobleman. If Pwyll had been looking at Rhiannon, he would have seen her furious expression.

Pwyll followed the formula, “Greetings, stranger. Come and sit down.”

“No, I thank you,” the young man replied, “I have come to ask a favour from you.”

Pwyll nodded. He was expecting that. It was the custom at feasts for lords to be generous.

“Whatever it is that you want, if I am able to give it to you, you shall have it.”

“Why did you say that?” Rhiannon whispered at his side. Pwyll glanced at her and to his shock, her face was ashy pale.

“My lady,” the stranger’s voice cut in triumphantly, “He has given his answer, and in the presence of nobles, so he cannot go back on it.”

As quickly as she had turned white before, Rhiannon flushed deep red and her chest heaved. But she said nothing and bowed her head, sinking into deep thought.

This was very confusing. Pwyll turned back to the man.  “Friend, what is your request?”

“The lady who I love is to be your bride tonight. She is my request, along with the feast that is here.”

The Birds

Last week we left Pwyll staring mournfully after Rhiannon, as she returned home after they got engaged.

So the couple sorrowfully went their separate ways, and not a sight or sound of Rhiannon did Pwyll see for the next year. He returned to his companions, and whenever they asked him questions about the maiden, he would always change the subject. But as midsummer of next year approached, they watched Pwyll get more and more excited.

Finally the day came. Pwyll strode into the hall, dressed in his best clothes. “Get ready!” he called to his lords. “We are going to my marriage feast!”

The lords cast bewildered looks at each other. Some cast up their eyes to the ceiling. But they all were ready within half an hour.

They all walked in procession to the Gorsedd, the lords still muttering. Only one of them, a dear friend of Pwyll’s, Pendaran Dyfed, had the wit to sneak up to Pwyll’s side and ask, “Does this have something to do with the maiden we saw a year ago?”

Glowing with excitement, Pwyll nodded vigorously.  Wait and see, his eyes said.

They climbed to the top of the Gorsedd and sat down to wait. As the sun began to sink to the horizon the mutterings grew in volume. Only Pwyll watched the distance, unafraid.

It was only two hours until sunset, when a sudden loud birdsong came out of nowhere and made them all jump.   Three birds swooped up and landed in front of Pwyll, putting their little heads to one side and singing their hearts out.

One was green, one gold, and one white.  The sun bounced off their jewel-like plumage, dazzling the men. Behind Pwyll, the mutterings died into gasps of awe.

“The Birds of Rhiannon!” one whispered.

Pwyll was as speechless as the rest.

These are creatures written into myth, into the fabric of our land. They almost never come to this world. We are incredibly lucky.

The thoughts died in his head, leaving his face blank and his mouth open. My Rhiannon…is she that Rhiannon? Then this must be the sign.

The birds leaped lightly up to circle round his head, flew on a little way and hovered, waiting.  Dumbly, Pwyll stood up, “Let us go, my lords.” And so, for the second time, Pwyll entered the Otherworld.

NB:  The birds of Rhiannon do not actually enter this story, although they are in other stories, but I thought they were a neat way for Pwyll to be guided to Rhiannon’s palace, since that is not explained in the original.

Next week we find out what happened when he got there.

The Pledge

Last week we left Pwyll very frustrated about the mysterious lady on the magic horse…

The next day Pwyll sat on horseback on top of the Gorsedd. There was the lady, coming along the path! He kicked his horse’s sides and it sprang away, bounding lightly down the hill and onto the plain. The race was on!

Pwyll urged his horse to the utmost speed straight away. Leaning over his horse’s neck, the grass flashed by. The line of trees loomed ahead.

And yet the lady was still the same distance away!  More than that – she was further away than before! This was hopeless! Yet a little voice whispered in his ear, what did you expect?

His brain exhausted, Pwyll gave one final try. He opened his mouth a fraction, wetting his dry lips. From a cracked throat his voice came in bursts.

“Lady – for the sake – of him who you love best – wait for me!”

He waited, hardly daring to breath. Then the unthinkable happened. Before his eyes, the great white horse slowed from a trot, and then stopped. Pwyll reined in his mount, and it staggered to a stop by the other horse, sides heaving with sweat.

“I will gladly wait,” said the lady, her face hidden behind her veil, but her voice was sweet and musical, yet with a hint of laughter, “and it would have been a lot better for your horse if you had asked me to stop long ago.”

Pwyll stared at her as her hands slowly took up the edge of her veil and pulled it back. He caught his breath as he looked into her fair countenance, eyes that sparkled blue as the sea in summer, yet in the back of them their lurked a sorrow and a taut determination.

As he stared, open-mouthed, the lady smiled, and her lingering sadness vanished. Pwyll called back the words that were his right to utter, tugging at them as they were blown away by a spring breeze.

“Lady, from where do you come, and where are you going?”

“I journey on my own errand,” she answered with spirit, “and I am very glad to have met you.”

Pwyll’s heart skipped a beat. She is glad to see me!  Aloud he replied, “I give you greeting.”

She is so beautiful. I have never seen another woman as beautiful as her. And it is not only her beauty – in her I can sense qualities that I haven’t found in any other woman. She is so bold!  He ventured a little further.

“Lady, will you tell me anything of your purpose in this journey?”

“Indeed, I will tell you,” she answered, elegantly inclining her head, “My chief aim was to seek you.”

She came to find me! A bubble of happiness began to grow inside of him.

“Lady,” Pwyll said, “To me, this is the most pleasing journey you could have come on. Will you tell me who you are?”

She nodded. The smile was wiped from her face now and the tense determination was back, “I am Rhiannon, lord, daughter of Hefeydd the Old” she began, “and my father is trying to give me to a husband against my will. But I do not want any husband, because,” she hesitated, “I love you. And I will not marry anyone else unless you reject me. So I have come to hear your answer.”

Pwyll did not hesitate, “I swear by the earth we are standing on, if I could choose between all the maidens of the world, I would still choose you.” He looked into her eyes as he made his pledge.

Relief and exquisite happiness spread across Rhiannon’s face, “If this is your answer, appoint a wedding date so that my father doesn’t give me to another man.”

“The sooner the better, in my mind,” Rhiannon’s grin only mirrored Pwyll’s own. “I will meet you when and wherever you like.”

“Well,” said Rhiannon, “Then according to the traditional time of betrothal for my realm, meet me a year from today in my father’s house. I will cause a feast to be made ready for you.”

Although he was slightly disappointed that he had to wait a whole year, Pwyll agreed delightedly, “I will gladly meet you there!”

They looked into each other’s eyes, disbelieving of their happiness. Finally Rhiannon tore her eyes away, “Lord, look after yourself, and remember your promise. Now I must go.  I slipped out while my father wasn’t looking.”

“Wait,” Pwyll called in a panic, “May I not have a few more moments with you?”

Rhiannon shook her head, “No, my lord. There are rules governing our kind as well. I will visit you if I can, but do not hold out much hope. But I promise I will lead you to my father’s kingdom on the appointed day.”

The Lady

Last week we left Pwyll waiting on the top of Gorsedd Arberth…

“Look over here!”

Pwyll leapt up and ran to the side of the mound. But all he could see was a woman, riding slowly across the plain. His heart sank back to its proper position.

“Well, Gwynn,” he said disappointingly to the man who had called him. “I am not sure that there is any wonder in this. It is only a noble lady going about her business. However, since it is my right to know her business, go and ask it of her, since you have awoken me for nothing.”

Gwynn bowed and headed off down the mountain, running so fast his legs were a blur. Pwyll watched as he sprinted across the plain after the lady on horseback.

He yawned and turned his head away, looking idly around. Nothing was happening! Was the power of the mound diminishing? Was he somehow unworthy to be here?

Gwynn was taking a long time. He looked back at the plain. Gwynn was still running after the lady! He had had plenty of time! She was only going at a walk! Pwyll watched them closely. As fast as Gwynn ran, he could not catch the lady up!

Gwynn turned and came running back. The lady on her infuriating white mare still plodded on, unperturbed.

Gwynn collapsed at Pwyll’s feet. His cheeks were the colour of ripe tomatoes and he choked on his words.

“Lord – lord –“

Pwyll took pity on him, “You have done enough, Gwynn.” He raised his voice. “One of you others go at once to the palace and go after her on horseback.”

A man ran off, and soon he burst out of the gates, astride a chestnut stallion that chomped at the bit. The man streaked across the plain, and disappeared behind the line of trees that now obscured the lady from sight.

Pwyll strained his eyes on them, as if by watching he could will on the chestnut stallion to achieve his aim. Who was this lady, coming into his lands without so much as a by-your-leave? For some reason it annoyed and troubled him.

Presently the man came back.

“Lord,” he said, swinging off and bowing low, “It’s no good for me to follow the lady. I don’t know any horse better than this one, but I could not catch her.”

“Well,” said Pwyll, his eyes still fixed dreamily on that distant line of trees. “There is some magic here.”  Suddenly he remembered he was to hold judgement with some of his subjects at sundown. “Let us go back towards the palace.”

The next day, Pwyll was rejuvenated, and soon after the midday meal he led his household once again to the Gorsedd Arberth.

The same man sat ready on horseback beside him.   The minutes seemed to crawl past. Pwyll’s household lay down in the sun, but Pwyll refused to sleep. He stood on the very tip of the hill, a bounce in his heart and his whole body tense.

“She is coming.” His voice cracked in excitement. “Go, learn who she is.” And the man on horseback dug his spurs into the horse’s side and was gone. Pwyll watched them until they disappeared behind the same line of trees. It must be a trick of his eyes, but it seemed that the same thing was happening as yesterday!

The man came back, his shoulders slumped. “Lord, the horse can do no more than you have already seen.”

Pwyll bowed his head. Disappointment crept into his heart. “Indeed, I see that it does no good for anyone to follow her. And she must have an urgent errand to someone in the land, too urgent for her to have the common civility to declare it to the lord!”

“Or to stop when someone so obviously wants to speak with her,” another man chimed in.

“Indeed,” snapped Pwyll. “Let us go towards the palace.”

Who are you, lady? He whispered to the night air later on. What is your errand that you go about so quickly and yet so slowly? You are obviously a wealthy woman, from your fine steed and your garment of gold. And you are obviously from the Otherworld as has been proved. But even Otherworldly beings should not neglect the customs of the lands through which they pass. I need to know who you are.

The Mound

One day, during one of the annual feasts at Arberth, about a year after his Otherworldly adventures, Pwyll was sitting in the hall, looking out of the window at the mound of Gorsedd Arberth. In size it was a small hill at best, but its ancient, brooding presence struck awe into everyone who saw it.  It had a power as old as time, the guardian – or punisher – of Dyfed.  If anybody went up on it, they would receive wounds or blows, or else see a wonder.  But a wonder can take many forms.

Pwyll had never been up it. Every prince went up, at some point in their lives, some out of curiosity, some from a direct challenge from the people.  He meant to go up someday.  It was a custom for each ruler.

Yet now as he gazed on it the thought came to him, Why not now.  Isn’t the present the best time for getting things done?

He jumped to his feet, “Lords, I am going up the Gorsedd Arberth.  Who will join me?”

At this call most of the lords agreed, of course.  Who would not refuse the challenge of sitting on the Gorsedd Arberth.  Only the oldest of the lords ventured to object in his wavering voice.

“Lord, is this wise?  We all know the properties of this mound.”

Pwyll flung back his golden head, laughing joyously, “I do not fear wounds or blows with the fighting skill of these noble warriors, but I would gladly see a wonder!”

The fire of a spontaneous decision ran through his veins, as he led the way out of the palace and to the mound, which loomed up through the dazzling noonday brightness.

He set one foot on the slope, slowly, gently, half-expecting there to be something – anything.  But nothing happened.  The birds still sang overhead, and the ground was still there, warm and solid, under his feet.  Emboldened, Pwyll climbed the short path to the top and flung himself down.

“Well lords, here we are,” he called as they gathered about him, “Anyone see anything.”

“No, my lord,” one of them called back.

Pwyll lay back on the grass, enjoying the sun’s warmth.  He could hear the rustling as his men settled down beside him.  The ground up here was so comfortable, and the unknown of slumber called him.  Bit by bit, his eyes drooped shut…

“My lord!”

Pwyll’s eyes flew open…

(continued next week)

Nobody knows today where Gorsedd Arberth actually was, but it is generally identified with Camp Hill, opposite Narberth, which has the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top.  If you look closely you can see the embankment on the second photo, which would have been part of the defensive system of the fort.

The Homecoming

Last week we left Pwyll riding home to Glyn Cych…

As he rode into the clearing he got a shock.

For he was waiting for himself.

With another moment’s thought he realised, of course, it was Arawn, looking like him. When Arawn saw himself coming a smile lit up his face.

“So, you have achieved what you set out to do.”

“I have, lord,” said Pwyll, “You will find everything in good order there, and with Hafgan’s kingdom under your sway.”

“Prince of Dyfed, I thank you,” said Arawn seriously, “You have done a great deed for me and my people, which will not be forgotten. How did you like my world?”

Pwyll inclined his head, “I liked it very well. I was sorry to leave.”

“But you are excited to be home again.”

“Indeed I am, lord.” Pwyll smiled.  “Apart from one thing.  On many evenings I was there, I was served with a very delicious meat I had never tasted before.  What animal does it come from?”

“Indeed,” Arawn smiled. “That meat comes from a small pink animal called a pig or hog.  I will send you some when I get home.  I should warn you though, it will be hard to adapt them to the climate of this world.  But anyway, let us lose no more time.”

He picked up his magic wand, tapping Pwyll with it. When the melting and solidifying feeling had passed, Pwyll looked at himself in the metal of his shield. He was himself again, warm and solid, not a grey shadow.

Invigorated, he tried to bow farewell to Arawn, but Arawn stopped him with a hand on his shoulder and pulled him into a hug, which Pwyll returned, grinning. “Now we will always be friends, you and I.”

So they bade farewell of each other, and Pwyll rode as hard as he could for Arberth. When he came out of the last wood, and saw the smoke rising from the fort, he gave a shout of joy, and galloped to the stables.

He swung himself down off the horse’s back, and passed the reins to the servant who ran out.

“Greetings, Gwynn,” he cried. How wonderful everything was! The hall towered nobly above everything, the people around him called greetings, and even the aroma of the stables seemed sweeter than normal.

The servant looked at him, puzzled, but took the horse off. Pwyll went into the hall, greeting his lords with the same gladness, but each one gave him the same puzzled looks in return. Until finally one challenged him.

“Lord,” he said to Pwyll, “what has happened to you? You only parted from us this morning, and here you are acting like you haven’t seen us for a whole year!”

(Narberth Castle – Who knows, perhaps this was the site of Pwyll’s fort.)

This brought Pwyll to his senses. He stopped talking in mid sentence and stared at the wall. Of course, he had forgotten that he had ridden out of here only this morning. But why should I hide from my men what has happened, he thought.

“Lords,” he called, going to the high seat, “gather round. In your opinion, how has my rule been during this past year, compared to what it was before?”

The lords cast each other many strange and confused looks. Finally one spoke, “Lord, never have you been so just, so merciful, or so generous and kind as last year.”

“Well,” said Pwyll, “You should thank him who was here with you, not me.” And he told them the whole story.

When he had finished the lords cast uncertain looks at each other, “Well,” they said, “we thank the gods that you have gained such a friendship, and we hope that you will not, now you have returned, withhold the same rule from us that we enjoyed last year.”

Pwyll agreed, and things were prosperous in Dyfed for some years. Arawn and Pwyll kept up their friendship, and sent each other many presents. And because of Pwyll’s many adventures in the Otherworld, he earned himself another name in Dyfed, Pwyll, Chief of Annwn.

The Fight

Last week we left Pwyll charging at Hafgan…

They struck. Hafgan’s spear hit Pwyll’s shield and glanced off, but Pwyll’s spear hit true, parting the shield down the middle, breaking through Hafgan’s armour, and sending Hafgan flying backwards off the saddle.

Pwyll dismounted and stood over his fallen enemy, who lay sprawled in the middle of the river, his blood fanning out of him.

With a shaky arm, Hafgan pushed back his visor, revealing a white face twisted in agony. “King,” he gasped, “I do not know what reason you have for killing me, but, since you have begun, finish your work!”

In spite of his firmly guarded heart, Pwyll felt a spasm of pity. But he held firm to Arawn’s words.

“King,” he said to Hafgan, “It may be that I will repent my work today. I will not slay you.”

“Ahhhh,” Hafgan cried, his face wrinkling up as pain coursed through him. “Lords, bear me hence, my time for death has come.”

The nobles of Hafgan, who had watched this drama speechlessly, now came forward like ones in a dream, and bore away the body of their lord.

Pwyll watched the procession disappear round the hill. A strange deed he had had to do today…

He turned to his nobles, “My lords,” he called, “Who ought to be my subjects?”

“Lord,” answered his nobles with one voice, “All people are, for now there is no king over the Otherworld but you.”

“Yes,” responded Pwyll, “Send out the word for everyone to come and pay homage, and he that comes peacefully will be welcomed, but he that does not come will be made to by the force of arms. And send out delegations of men to secure Hafgan’s dominion.”

He turned and rode back to the palace, and until noon of the next day lords from all over Annwn came to pay him homage. Then Pwyll gave out that he was going riding. From the hilltop he turned to look back one final time on his home for the past year. Even though it was not like comfortable, familiar Arberth, he had lived there, and gotten attached to the people and places, which he would never see again. He jerked his horse’s head away and rode for Glyn Cych.